Hettie (hettie_lz) wrote,

Stay at home dads

В сегодняшней Трибуне была совершенно прекрасная, на мой взгляд, статья про пап, которые уходят с работы, чтобы сидеть с детьми. Это по-прежнему не очень распространенное явление, но, тем не менее, сейчас как минимум 200 тысяч американских пап этим заняты.

В статье говорится, в чем "папское" воспитание отличается от "мамского", рассказывается, почему люди приходят к такому решению, и какие трудности их подстерегают.

Я, как водится, не знаю, открытая или закрытая эта статья, если нужно ее скопировать, то я скопирую. Но вот один кусочек, из-за которого я сегодня утром чуть с тренажера не свалилась, я сейчас процитирую.

"Пэт Байрнс говорит, что решение десятилетней давности о том, что он будет сидеть дома с двумя детьми (9 и 5 лет), было несложным. "Расписание моей жены не такое гибкое, как мое", сказал Байрнс, 54-летний бывший авиаинженер. Его жена - Генеральный прокурор штата Иллинойс Лиза Мэдиган".

As his 1-year-old son napped on a recent afternoon, stay-at-home dad David Wallach scrambled to find time to work out, install a sink, do laundry, clean the playroom and get dinner started.

But while the Northfield dad has learned to improvise, he acknowledges that he doesn't quite do things the way his wife, a leadership development team director, would do them.

"If the baby spits up, I use my sock to wipe it up," said Wallach, 46, a television producer and blogger whose children are ages 14, 5 and 1. "I'm thinking: It's the clean part of my sock. If my wife knew, she would have a fit. But I'm getting it done."

Stay-at-home dads have come a long way over the past 30 years since Hollywood depicted them as ham-handed, inept "Mr. Mom" types. Today's dads, like moms, have become expert at managing the daily juggle. But recent research shows there's a stark difference — these dads are putting their own stamp on parenting. They participate more in physical activities than their wives and care much less about being perfect.

Although the overall number of fathers who provide primary care for their children is still modest, the at-home-dad ranks have increased dramatically since the beginning of the Great Recession. According to the U.S. Census, the number of full-time stay-at-home dads across the country jumped 53 percent from 2008 to 2013, with 214,000 fathers counted.

The economic slowdown forced some dads out of the workforce and into stay-at-home roles, but others simply wanted to be home with their children and could do so because their wives were ample breadwinners.

Being an at-home dad isn't stigma-free. But perceptions have been changing over the years as men, regardless of whether they work outside the home, are expected to engage more in child-rearing.

"Boys don't grow up playing with dolls or baby-sitting as much as girls," said University of Oregon sociologist Scott Coltrane, an expert on the evolving roles of fathers. "But they're teachable. Men are fairly insecure in the beginning about diapering and feedings, but they get the hang of it and teach themselves."

Gokcen Coskuner-Balli, an assistant professor of marketing at Chapman University in Orange, Calif., was the lead author of a study released last year showing that stay-at-home dads are developing their own template for parenting. They're more outdoorsy and physical than their wives. They tend to use and create technology to solve problems more, and they're not as concerned about the house being immaculate.

"They're really different from moms," Coskuner-Balli said. "Moms sit and read, or do activities where the kids are sitting down while they're playing. But dads take the children outside and do more running around."

She said that while stay-at-home moms and dads do share common ground, from feeling exhausted to watching their waistlines expand, men sometimes find it difficult to talk to moms about the travails of the day. So they create their own support systems.

"If they go to a park on their own, they tend to get ostracized" by moms, Coskuner-Balli said. "They get weird looks, or moms might think they're trying to flirt. So they're much more comfortable when they go with a group of other guys and organize play dates at the park."

Elk Grove Village dad Pat Jacobs, 37, has an 11-month-old son, and although he hasn't spent a lot of time trying to bond with moms, he said trying to bond with dads requires some strategizing.

"It's best when you're in organized settings with dads, because men walking around the mall or the grocery store aren't open to just striking up a conversation and sharing like moms are" with each other, said Jacobs, whose wife is a manager at a Chicago company. "Dads give a head nod, and that's about it."

Jacobs blogs to connect with other at-home fathers and share advice. He's also a member of the 8-year-old National At-Home Dad Network, a consortium of local dad groups around the country that has about 3,000 members. The men meet in person or online and hold an annual convention with seminars offering advice on everything from potty-training to hair-braiding to building kids' self-esteem.

Al Watts, 41, is the president of the network and lives in Elgin with his wife, Shirley Erlbacher, and their four children, ages 11, 9, 7 and 5. He said he and his wife were earning about the same amount of money when their daughter was born in 2002. But four months later Erlbacher got a promotion, and Watts has been an at-home dad ever since.

"I worked in the newspaper business selling advertisements, and we knew where that was going," Watts said. "My wife worked in the food business for a major Fortune 500 company, and she kept getting promotions. She also kept getting pregnant."

Erlbacher said that with her husband at home, she never worries about child care, or what to do if her children can't go to school because they're sick.

"I'm admittedly a control freak, and with the first child, it was tough having her in child care," said Erlbacher, 41. "Me letting go enough to allow anyone to take care of my children is a challenge, but I take comfort in knowing it's their father who's doing it."

Watts said trying to get a handle on how many dads are doing what he does can be tricky. That's because the census uses one yardstick for dads who are home full time and don't earn money but whose wives work. In 2011, these fathers represented nearly 1 percent of parents caring for children under age 15.

The census uses another yardstick for married dads who may or may not have been employed but provided primary child care while their wives worked. In 2011, these fathers made up 10 percent of parents caring for children under 15.

What's clear is that social media have amplified the voices of at-home dads and allowed them to become better organized. Last year, at-home-dad groups helped place the phrase "Mr. Mom" on a university's annual list of words to banish. Similar groups also cried foul when a Huggies TV commercial suggested that dads might be a bit lax in their diaper duties.

In terms of demographics, the census does not capture the race and class of stay-at-home dads. But Aaron Rochlen, a University of Texas at Austin professor who has done national studies on fathers who are primary caregivers, said the majority tend to be white, college-educated, upper-middle-class men who live in urban rather than rural areas.

He said although more dads are staying at home, boys and men are still socialized to believe that they should be the main providers and often define themselves and their worth by their work. The extent to which a man agonizes over staying at home depends on how he sees himself.

"If these at-home dads, and we're talking about gay men and straight men, still view themselves as providers, they often adjust to the role just fine," Rochlen said. "The ones who do well don't feel they have to conform to traditional gender models."

Pat Byrnes said it was a "no-brainer" when he and his wife decided nearly a decade ago that he would stay home with their two children, ages 9 and 5.

"My wife's job wasn't as flexible, but mine was," said Byrnes, 54, an aerospace engineer-turned-cartoonist. His wife is Illinois' attorney general, Lisa Madigan, 47.

"I think maybe if we had traditional views on the issue, we would have had a discussion, maybe a lively one," he said. "But we're both very practical people, and the solution was obvious. It's like standing by a light switch and saying which one of us should turn on the lights."

For men considering one day re-entering the workforce, there's a price for stepping onto the "daddy track." University of Oregon's Coltrane found that when men take time away from the labor force to care for children and then return, they make less money in the long run.

"Employers still think the ideal worker should have someone at home taking care of the kids," Coltrane said. "But, on average, wages were depressed less for men than for women" re-entering the workforce.

He said most at-home dads, however, still believe it's worth it because they build closer relationships with their children and their wives, who feel more appreciated and are more satisfied with the marriage.

Jim Chapa, 51, of Downers Grove, said that when he became a stay-at-home dad nearly 20 years ago, he wasn't aware of any road maps or organized dad networks that provided support — just a few online chat groups.

"I simply did what I had to do," said Chapa, who has a 19-year-old daughter and 16-year-old son and whose wife is senior director for a Chicago-based corporation. "The thought of taking our kids to day care or having a sitter raise them just didn't make sense to us."

He said although he never felt being an at-home dad threatened his masculinity — "I'm 6 foot, 3 inches tall, 220 pounds, with a full beard" — one minor frustration was that many of the notes his children brought home from school regarding bake sales, classroom parties and field trips were addressed "Dear Mom."

"My kids would send (the letters) back to school with 'and Dad' or '/Dad' penciled in next to 'Dear Mom,'" Chapa said. "Until my daughter went to college, she thought her upbringing was normal. I just felt lucky. I never had to carry a picture of my kids in my wallet, because they were with me."

Tags: media, social issues, women issues, work-life balance

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